Top 5 tips for landing a graduate program (from someone who has)
It was early on a Tuesday morning when I received the call. I had been waiting anxiously over the weekend following my final interview and was slowly losing hope with each passing minute. Finally, I pulled myself out of bed and into the shower. Halfway through washing my hair, my phone rang. I jumped out and answered the call. I got the job.
With graduation looming for many of us it is the perfect time to start applying for graduate programs for next year. I wanted to share some tips that I learned through a very long and extensive application process in the hope that it may help you.
1. Be willing to put in effort
One of the key things you can do to prepare for a graduate program is to understand that it is going to require a lot of your time and effort. Hopefully, by this point you already have your resume filled with volunteer work, work experience, internships and extra-curricular experience and you have a good GPA (many grad programs only accept GPA’s of 5 and higher, but this is a case-by-case basis). The application process for each graduate program will vary, with some requiring a few hours to complete and some being submitted in a few minutes. For those that require lengthy answers, be prepared to take the time to fill them out well – as you would an exam. The harsh truth is that graduate programs are incredibly competitive. You may be up against anywhere from 500 to 5,000 people for a role that takes one to 30 grads. Do your research and know what the employer is looking for and spend time creating quality, tailored answers.
2. Prepare, prepare, prepare
Preparedness could be the difference between you landing your dream job or just missing out. Each program that you apply for will have a slightly different process. However, on average, most graduate program’s recruitment processes will look something like this: Online Application > Online Assessment > Video Interview > Assessment Centre > Individual Interview > Offers. It is a tough process and you need to know what to expect at each stage.
You need to know everything you can about the role you are applying for, the company, what they are looking for, the company’s language (to use to fashion your interview responses) and what you will bring to the role. You can never be too prepared during the application process – this is your future we are talking about.
3. Know what to expect
At each stage of the process, it is important that you understand what to expect. Head onto Whirlpool and search for your graduate program as there will very likely be a thread of people discussing it. If you make it through to a video interview, go online and try some practice interviews or search for information about previous years in forums for tips. If you make it to an assessment centre, take some time to search for what to expect and what they are looking for. It is likely that you will face a mixture of group work, problem solving tasks, individual work, and presentations.
You need to understand what the assessors are looking for during each of these tasks. Often it isn’t the smartest person in the room, but the person who shows they are a leader, by encouraging others, asking questions, leading (but not dominating the conversation) and keeping everyone on track etc. Then if you are lucky enough to make it through to a final interview, go online to grad forums and websites and start practicing common interview questions and drafting specific industry questions with the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Response) method. With this you can answer the question while highlighting your experience and your abilities.
4. Ask questions and don’t be afraid to fail
Throughout the process don’t be afraid to ask questions. As much as you want to impress your potential employers, this is also the time for you to find out if this is a company where you want to kick-start your career. Even more important is to enter the process with the knowledge that you will face both success and failure. As an example, I completed around 30 applications over the period of two months, undertook multiple online assessments and video interviews, flew to Sydney twice and ventured to Brisbane for assessment centres, and experienced rejection, after rejection, after rejection before finally receiving a phone call to tell me I had landed a position. It isn’t like this for everyone, some people only apply for a few roles before they get lucky, others won’t make it to an assessment centre. Unfortunately, this is just the nature of the process, but your chances of success can be improved if you prepare, put in the effort and ask lots of questions.
5. Be yourself
The most important tip is to remember to be yourself. Don’t feel that you need to act differently to impress your assessors during an assessment centre or interview. Being yourself is so important for two reasons. First, you are looking for a company that suits you, your morals, your values, your skills and your ambitions. Second, you want the employer to hire you because of who you are, not who you pretend to be. There is no use putting on a façade and pretending to have a different personality to land the job. Because if you do, you might end up in a position you hate and that you simply don’t fit.
Stay true to yourself and remember that if you don’t find a graduate program it isn’t the end of the world. There are so many amazing ways to enter the workforce and to make your way to where you want to be. But if it is something that you really want to achieve, have resistance, read your feedback carefully and keep working at it and you never know what you may achieve.
Written by Hayley Payne